Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger

"Nature creates many variations" (71). This novel explores one variation in which a girl (Angela) believes that she is a boy and so she decides to start living life that way. With a new haircut, new clothes, and a new name, Angela suddenly becomes Grady (a transgender). While high school is hard enough for any teenager going through puberty, add a complete identity crisis and things get even more complicated. Suddenly Angela/Grady has lost her one and only friend Eve who isn't entirely comfortable with the change, and now Angela/Grady is a new target for bully Danya. Even though some family members have slight problems accepting their new son/brother, things aren't all bad for Grady. He makes a new friend in Sebastian, has an ally in his gym teacher, not to mention a major crush on a girl who is his own little cheerleader.

This book was very eye opening. Not all high school students go through identities crises, but this novel does a great job exploring the struggle to figure out who you are. Angela/Grady knew from the beginning that she wasn't meant to be a girl and she had the courage to change, something many people don't have. To be gay or lesbian isn't as uncommon as it had been years before, but that's not to say people are that willing to announce it to the world. Being transgendered seems to be far less uncommon but yet it does occur. Most portrayals, though, aren't generally in the most positive light, generally in terms of drag or in the form of a date gone wrong joke. For that reason it might be extremely hard for transgendered people to come out and be accepted. Boys Don't Cry didn't exactly give the person a happily ever after. Angela/Grady, though, took the step to say that she wasn't comfortable being something she's not. She shouldn't have to pretend to be someone else just because it's more accepted by society. While this book might have downplayed some of the opposition she might have faced, it did a good job of presenting her struggle. It also had an excellent point about why do you have to be a girl or a boy? Feminine or Masculine. How much simpler would the world be if people weren't obsessed with fitting into a role? Guys don't want to look like a sissy and girls don't want to look too macho. Maybe if the world wasn't so hung up on being pink or blue, people like Grady wouldn't be so afraid to be themselves.

Even though this is fiction and maybe a little too picture perfect to be real life, hopefully this books gives struggling teens some comfort and support as they search for their true identity. This book also offers references and resources for those looking for extra help. As the book says at the end "We spend a long time trying to figure out how to act like ourselves, and then, if we're lucky, we finally figure out that being ourselves has nothing to do with acting" (287).

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